More on the decision about altar boys at the Cathedral in Phoenix

In the diocesan newpaper of Phoenix, The Catholic Sun, there is a follow up article about the decision of the rector of the cathedral to have only altar boys serving.  Read here and here for more.

You can read it over there, but here are a couple quips:

[Fr. Lankeit, the rector] pointed to a parish in Ann Arbor, Mich., as one such example. In 2008, the parish had 22 seminarians, Fr. Lankeit said. He also mentioned the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., which similarly reserves altar service to boys and has seen strong growth in vocations to the priesthood.

Fr. Lankeit understands his decision regarding altar servers may be upsetting to some.

“If the question is approached just from an emotional standpoint, I can understand why people would be upset because they’re looking at it terms of a question of rights — and they’re interpreting it in such a way that somebody’s rights are being denied,” he said.

The fact is, Fr. Lakeit said, becoming an altar server is not at all about rights. The same goes, he said, for the priesthood.


Unfortunately, when the secular world steps in to comment on whether or not altar servers should only be male, the issue is examined from an emotional point of view, rather than considered in light of the reasons behind the decision, [Fr. Sullivan, the director for vocations in Phoenix] said.

Where there is strong formation of young men, Fr. Sullivan said, there are more vocations to the priesthood. He said that kind of formation stresses service and avoids a false egalitarianism and false clericalism.

In other words, he said, it’s not about power or competition between the sexes — it’s about serving God and forming young people in the faith.

Do young girls who serve at the altar become nuns?

“I haven’t seen that evidence,” Fr. Sullivan said. “The parish I know that has the most female vocations has no altar girls… I’ve never met a young girl who has said, ‘I found my vocation altar serving.’ Maybe it’s happened.”

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  1. contrarian says:

    Precisely and precisely. Fr. Sullivan=awesome.

    Very impressively worded and explained by the man. May there be many like him.

  2. Wasn’t the whole point of altar girls to push for women’s ordination? It has been a cynical pressing of little girls and their emotions into the service of the feminist agenda. Too bad Rome ever said yes to the practice in the first place.

  3. Arieh says:

    More priests like him, please!

    I attend a very small parish (less than 50 families) that does not allow girl altar boys and we have 17 altar servers. That is, every boy who is 8 years-old or older in our parish serves . . . every single one.

  4. pfreddys says:

    Do any girls go on to be nuns anymore? Except, of course, in the various convents set up along traditional lines, where this would not be an issue.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Most of the young girls I know who are going into convents are from conservative, frequently home-schooling families, which would not approve of altar girls. If anyone else has a different perspective, I would be interested. Of course, we would not expect the secular or liberal press to understand the fine distinctions of a patriarchal Church, a phrase which raises ire in the puppet-ladies.

  6. disco says:

    I defy you to find a supporter of female servers who is not also a supporter of wymynprysts. I think one of the best arguments for male only service is that it encourages vocations to the priesthood. That’s the trump card right there because the liberals only answer is “why shouldn’t women be allowed to be priests?”.

  7. FrAWeidner says:

    Disco, if the judgment in your first sentence is accurate, then IMHO the best argument for male-only altar service is as a teachable moment as to the truth of the male-only priesthood, and that if one isn’t on board with that doctrine, then one has in one’s heart massively undermined (if not completely abandoned) the Catholic presumption of the terrestrial Christological foundations of the Church and the priesthood and has thus become a de facto Protestant.

    Honestly, I don’t think that the majority of folks in the pews who support female altar servers do so because they favor women’s ordination, but because they don’t get the connection between serving and priestly vocational discernment. When pastors exercise their rights and their faith and do away with female altar servers, they’re far less likely to be met with “Why don’t you want women to be priests?” and far more likely to be met with “Why do hate my daughter?” It’s a terrible battle, but one that needs to be fought in every last parish throughout the country and the world, one by one, parish by parish… brick by brick.

  8. Springkeeper says:

    I am a consevative mother of 6 who converted from Baptist Fundamentalist to Catholic this year. I am also a retired Marine who has seen the damage feminism can do. I pray that more parishes will get rid of alter girls. I know my two daughters will not join their ranks and I pray that at least one of them will become a traditional nun or sister.

  9. Nathan says:

    I wonder if most of the young ladies (serviettes, to use Michael Davies’ clever term) are there because they or their parents are active supporters of the “women’s ordination movement” or are there because 1)someone in charge has asked them or 2) it’s a social thing to do or 3)they believe it to be a legitimate function, independent of one’s view on women and the priesthood?

    I think, at least to some degree, a contributing factor to the hue and cry over limiting altar serving to males comes from the change in the role of altar servers between the OF and EF. I’ve served in both forms and taught servers in both forms, and it seems pretty clear that, in most US parishes’ celebrations of the OF, altar serving is much more ancillary to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass than it is in the TLM. In any case, serving in the OF involves much more “just standing around” than in the TLM (one example–at a TLM High Mass, servers are involved in four separate incensations, while the OF has at most two). It also seems that having the servers lay out the oblata in the offertory and handle the sacred vessels (as is common in the OF), there might be confusion in the roles of altar server and sacristan.

    Could it be that as the relative importance of the acolytes/thurifer have declined, that many folks see little “school for the priesthood” involved in altar serving? If you don’t have a problem with Mrs. O’Reilly distributing Holy Communion or Miss Schapanski reading the Epistle, why would you have a problem with little Kaytelin standing around and holding a book for Father or bringing out the Chalice?

    In Christ,

  10. Arieh says:

    Nathan has a very valid point. In most OF liturgies that I have seen the altar servers tend to just wander around the sanctuary carrying things. The EF (and the Eastern Divine Liturgy) has very clearly spelled out roles and actions.

  11. Centristian says:

    “Unfortunately, when the secular world steps in to comment on whether or not altar servers should only be male, the issue is examined from an emotional point of view, rather than considered in light of the reasons behind the decision…”

    Unfortunately, all the secular world has to go by are the decisions and actions of the clerical world. Long ago, the clerical world decided it was okay for girls to serve Mass. Let’s not be too quick to blame the secular world, therefore, for becoming confused and annoyed by the clerical world’s inability to get things right. The clerical world needs to own up to its own mistakes before lambasting the secular world for going along with them.

  12. Mark01 says:

    Hey, did anyone else notice that the Boy Scouts don’t let girls in either? What an injustice!

  13. We’ve gone over this before. A lot of it isn’t rooted in women’s ordination, but rather in the very common pre-Vatican II practice of telling girls at Catholic girls’ schools (usually sacristan’s assistants) to serve certain parts of the Mass from down outside the altar area (ie, carrying candles, etc.) on days when boys didn’t show up or weren’t available. If you take a good-sized chunk of tomorrow’s devout Catholic women, and you have them serve, and then they tell their daughters that they served, and the daughters grow up in a totally different sort of environment with no real understanding of their mom’s kind of serving or of a line between the altar area and the rest of church, of course people are going to take it differently.

    Nobody was even vaguely talking about women’s ordination back then, except maybe in very very weird Protestant circles. An innocent practice was overtaken by circumstances, made bigger than the “auxiliary boy” role, and then twisted to current ideological uses. But a large chunk of people out there just want their kids to help out; and since girls can serve, they want their girls to be servers.

    People who don’t think the practice is helpful need to keep this piece of reality in mind, or they’re going to come across like they mug Brownies for their cookie money.

    And no, the Altar Guild alone isn’t going to absorb the energies of the XX 53% of the kids in the parish. Unless you are somehow going to turn every girlchild into a seamstress capable of making embroidered altar linens and vestments … and even back in the day, nobody could manage that. If there’s no serving for girls, you need a whole sodality or better, a series of age-graded sodalities, with tons of activities and charities to take up girls’ ambitions and zeal. It has to be A Big Thing to satisfy girls and mothers, with all kinds of spiritual bouquet Goals, and you probably need the canonical “blue satin sashes” too.

    Seriously. It has to be A Big Thing. Big. Really big. Capable of expansion. Girls are very competitive, so there has to be lots of room for everyone to do different stuff or some of them’ll cut each other’s throats for some favored spot of command, and the rest will be made extremely unwelcome. Tons of supervision will be needed to minimize the inevitable mean girl nastiness.

  14. Cathy says:

    The girls I know who serve Mass have no idea that there is a problem with girls serving. They come from families who are very orthodox, but maybe not knowledgeable about controversies surrounding girl servers. If the pastor explained to them why it would be better for servers to be boys, I don’t think they would have a problem with it. For them, it’s just a way of volunteering at the parish. I realize this isn’t always the case, but it is with everyone I know. I do think they would be offended by some of the ways girl servers are talked about here. It bothers me and I fully agree with altar servers being boys.

  15. I still say that women’s ordination is at the bottom of altar girls. It is part of an incrementalist strategy: get the girls in the sanctuary, change the whole ethos of the Mass, get people accustomed to females at the altar, and then maybe Rome will change its mind about priestesses.

    And then, of course, there is the emotional appeal. Now that we have altar girls, the women’s ordination people can tell anecdotes about the suffering of disappointed little altar girls, looking up at their mothers with tears in their eyes and murmuring plaintively: “Why can’t I be a priest?” And the mother is at a loss to explain, so the feminist swoops in helpfully to supply the explanation: oppression by the male-dominated Church hierarchy. I have seen this tactic deployed, and by someone who was then a very highly-placed person in the diocese.

    Whether or not the majority of people in the pews support women’s ordination, who can doubt that altar girls serves the purposes of those who do?

  16. benedetta says:

    Agree with Miss Anita Moore OP. Since when does the woc group care about the needs of young Catholics, and young Catholic girls, in particular? If the overall well being of Catholic girls was truly a concern there are a lot of other areas in which we would see their ministry of irritation making their presence known — prolife, for starters. It is a set-up, intended to place girls on the altar, have the confused career mom who has bought the feminist justification for prochoice as being the cornerstone of equality and dignity cheer that on, and then in one fell swoop, take their bitter recognition that priesthood as in the Episcopal denomination around the corner isn’t in the cards, and direct it at “The Vatican”. And the destruction from the inside tactics just keep on coming…

    Obviously the woc isn’t making itself useful at the local parish level, building community, encouraging the weekly attending faithful. It speaks for one thing and one thing only, what they have agreed upon in their desire.

    And then we get the situation where all various (to use a term from the world of politics) special dissenting interest groups unite under various conferences and publications all aiming that bitterness and divisiveness at the same target. Sure seems like the desired result is total destruction to me.

  17. TommyG says:

    No one, boy or girl, has the RIGHT to serve at the altar. It is a PRIVILEGE, one that must constantly be earned. I realize that even now at age 57 when I am called on to serve the altar in that capacity. (I also serve as lector, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and cantor, and have gone through the appropriate training and formation for each.)

  18. jkm210 says:

    I agree with Cathy, up there. I’ve been in suburban parishes and rural parishes, all having female altar servers, and I don’t think 99% of the servers or their parents have any kind of “agenda.” The people advocating for female servers certainly do, but “serviettes” have been the status quo in many parishes for many years, and I don’t think most people think anything of the meaning of such a practice. I have known many, many faithful Catholic people who have deep prayer lives and act charitably in the service of others, but most of them can’t really articulate anything about their beliefs because they are so poorly catechized. They certainly are not sitting around contemplating the link between altar serving and vocations.

    I was a female altar server, it did confuse me vocationally, and I don’t intend to let my daughters (4 and 2 – maybe this question will be resolved before they are old enough) find themselves in the same situation. However, priests do need to tread carefully and catechize thoroughly when disallowing the practice.

  19. Springkeeper says:

    I was raised Episopalian and we had an abundance of altar servers and all male. During the 1980’s our priest’s wife wanted female altar servers (she became a priest herself shortly thereafter) so females were added. Now that church has far too few servers and almost none of them male as most of the teenage boys dropped out (as servers and eventually out of the church) shortly after females were added as servers and very few new ones were added. It seems that the more females do, the less males will do and really why shouldn’t they? I am sick and tired of “oh the poor girls” all the and no one seems to give a you-know-what about “the poor boys”.

  20. Michael J. says:

    I am opposed to girls serving as Altar Boys. However, I think we have already opened the door to this when we allowed women to be Lectors and Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Holy Communion should be distributed by Priests or Deacons, yet we let women do this? So we opened the door and now they will want to do everything that can be done at the Altar. I support the priest who had the courage to say no to the girls serving, but the fact is, in the U.S., only the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska forbids Female Altar Servers on a Diocesan Basis. So, while they can’t serve at the Cathedral (a good start), can they still serve at other parishes in the Diocese? Rome needs to step in and put an end to this for it to truly be corrected in the entire country, and perhaps the entire world.

  21. Papabile says:


    Nathan is wrong about the use of incense in the OF of Mass.

    It can be used according to the IGMR during:

    1. The processional entrance.
    2. Incensing the altar and crucifix.
    3. Incensing the Gospel.
    4. Incensing the Oblata.
    5. Incensing at both Elevations.
    6. Incensing at the recessional.

  22. Nathan says:

    Papabile, I gladly stand corrected on the incense in the OF. If only that would occur more often!

    In Christ,

  23. patriciaicon says:

    I believe in all altar boys for all the right reasons. I saw in California a Mass where there were 3 altar boys and 3 altar girls. I was supposed to be assisting at the Mass. Instead I was very distracted. As I observed why I was so distracted, here is what I observed….as the Mass progressed, I noticed that the girls and boys moved in very different ways from one spot on the altar to another spot as they went about their duties within the required duties as altar servers.

    HOWEVER, the girls tended to go ‘around’ people or things (chairs, other altar servers, altar) and the boys tended to go straight from one spot to the other. The girls were ‘nice and accommodating’ and the boys were..let’s get to the next spot and ‘be efficient and on our way’.

    The time of the Mass was worse than a circus….it showed what happens when the people are poorly chosen for the event….in this case girls and not all boys….that is just the way it is. At least in a circus, the mayhem is well planned and practiced before hand..most adults know this….the Mass should also be well planned as a reverent Event deemed worthy of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (The priest was oblivious to what was going on as he was concentrating on the Mass.) One more reason I had to leave that state and move to Missouri. I now attend the Latin Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, MO. I LOOOOOOOOVE it!

    Was I being too observant? I went back to my prayers and then back to observing the final time……and the truth won out (in my way of thinking…IMHO….I implore God’s Mercy here….the boys moved as a sperm moves going for the egg…it goes straight for the source of its mission!

    Women move differently…that is probably why men do not do well in the kitchen and appear to get underfoot…they just move differently. I saw a similar explanation by a fine writer about 20 years ago and then no one else commented on the movement theory. Women do not belong on the alter for the reason that the altar is the training ground for future priests…..Roma Locuta Causa Finite
    (excuse my Latin spelling … it may be wrong.) Patricia from St. Louis, MO

  24. anncouper-johnston says:

    This all stems from the fact that the feminists, following a secular ideology derived from Communism, considered equality to mean that women should be treated exactly like men – so women went out to work (just like the man), climbed the career ladder (just like a man) …. regardless of the fact that a woman is different from a man with different hormones coursing through her body. This means she has different, but equally valuable, attributes. Her capacity to care means she is of great value in providing for the vulnerable, both young and old – a value which the feminists did not recognize as they only valued someone who was contributing economically, thus outside the home.

    I don’t want to go out to work, just like a man. I want what I can contribute in the form of caring, or voluntary work, or whatever, to be acknowledged as of value to society.

  25. anncouper-johnston says:

    Likewise, I don’t want to be a priest, just like a man. I want to take my place in the Church using the talents I have received and to be respected as one who has made a valuable contribution in whatever way I can. I would like to explore in more detail the position of the woman who neither comes from a Catholic family nor herself founds a Catholic family; given the increasing number of people who are not brought up in any church, I think there may well be many such in years to come. How do we move from the traditional emphasis on the Catholic home to accommodate “stand-alone” Catholics?

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